Well Of Urd
Within a clearing deep in the forest, a throbbing drum begins to beat. Soon the feet of the dancers tap out the rhythm, circling around the center, whirling faster and faster as flutes, bagpipes, lyres, and other Nordic and Celtic instruments join the tune, building to a frenzied crescendo of ecstatic release that sends spirits soaring outward and within, opening themselves to the ancient mysteries that lie at the heart of our being, connecting us to all.
The music of Hagalaz’ Runedance, the creation of Andrea Nebel Haugen and various guest musicians, initiates us into the spiritual mysteries of Northern Europe, especially those of the female Vikings, such as the shamanic/witchcraft/herbalism tradition of Seidr. So if you’re not interested in pagan/Neo-folk, this probably isn’t for you. But if you’re a fan of the World Serpent crowd — Current 93, Sol Invictus, Fire & Ice, and the like — then you’ll dig this. Combining traditional folk instruments with modern electronics and lyrics inspired by shamanic trances, the pull of the seasons, and the search for personal meaning in a world overfull of straitjacketed minds and hearts, Hagalaz’ Runedance calls us to remember the old ways of myth and magic and respect for the natural world.
Quite aside from the spirituality, though, the music has a magic all its own. Hagalaz’ Runedance uses a much wider range of instruments, and performs with more polish and skill, than almost any other pagan folk musicians I can think of. This produces an incredible sound, as on the title track “Volven,” whose pounding drums grip you by the gut while a droning fiddle (strykelyre, I think), gentle bells, and atmospheric synths perfectly evoke the trancelike experience of ritual described in the lyrics, from which we are awakened by gypsy handclaps at the end. “Your World in My Eyes,” with its sad, echoing flutes, lyre, and harp (?), expresses sadness and anger in the lyrics about the bloody and oppressive history of humankind, while “On Wings of Rapture (Vision of Skuld)” remixes an earlier song from the album with Middle Eastern sounds and rock guitar while still retaining the ancient Nordic folk instruments, creating a whirling dervish of a track that ought to become an underground dance club hit. About the only bad thing I have to say about Volven is that occasionally the synths get a little overdone and cheesy, as on “Solstice Past,” but this is a small complaint about an otherwise excellent album.